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Teotitlán del Valle

Spend Time in the Place of Gods

Mexico's Zapotec community of Teotitlán del Valle (elevation: 1,670 meters or 5,500 feet) is world-famous for production of colorful wool rugs (laadi in Zapotec). Most travelers wish they could spend more time to visit the weavers in this town in Oaxaca's Central Valley.

Weavers

There are about 150 families who specialize in weaving. There you can see the process from carding wool to natural dyes to weaving. For details, consult Planeta.com's directory of artisans.

Those interested in crafts will find dozens of family workshops open to the public.

The fabric of choice is wool. This is due to the introduction of sheep in the valley by Juan López de Zárate in the 1500s.

More than 100 workshops showcase a large selection of handmade products, including rugs, jackets, ponchos and dresses. A few weavers are reviving the use of natural dyes including indigo and cochineal and brazilwood.

Designs include traditional Zapotec glyphs as well as imported Navajo art and reproductions of famous paintings by Picasso and Escher.

Natural World

Teotitlán translates as "Place of the Gods" and the landscape here is equally formidable.

Lying at the base of the Sierra Juárez, the town is within hiking distance of interesting places such as El Picacho, Cerro Gie Bets, which translates as 'Stone Brother' in the local Zapotec language. Permission from the city government is required to make this hike.

The Cuevita del Pedimento are three small caves a short walk from town. The site is visited by many to celebrate the New Year.

Bird-watchers flock to this community to see the avine species at the local dams.

To see the birds, head north a mile to the Piedra Azul Dam at the foothills of El Picacho. During the rainy months, the Benito Juárez Dam fills to the east. Winter months (November-March) are the best time to see migratory birds, including herons and kingfishers.

Cultural Attractions

Across from the town's craft market is one of the finest community museums in Mexico.

Opened in 1995 Balla Xtee Guedchi Gulal has exhibitions featuring archaeological finds, crafts and traditional weddings. Signage appears in English, Spanish and Zapotec. There is a small admission fee and no picture taking is permitted inside.

The community offers Zapotec language classes. Look for information at the "Let's Preserve Our Language Center" next to the city hall. The community museums sells a visual dictionary, Diccionario Illustrado en el Zapoteco de Teotitlán del Valle.

One the major celebrations is the Guyach, simply "dance" in Zapotec that commemorates the conquest battles between the Spaniards and the Aztecs. This dance is performed during the Fiesta of the Precious Blood of Christ the first Wednesday of July (with the proviso that when the first Wednesday is July 1st or 2nd, festivities are conducted the second Wednesday of the month). Dancers (danzantes) wear elaborate headdresses fashioned from painted feathers, which gives the event its name in Spanish, Danza de la Pluma. The week-long celebration includes carnival rides and a basketball tournament.

Visiting

Location: Teotitlán del Valle is 24 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of Oaxaca City and 4 kilometers west of Santa Ana del Valle and 10 kilometers west of Tlacolula and east of Tule. See the map below.


View Larger Map

Transportation: From Oaxaca City, the Valle del Norte bus line at the second-class station's Gate #29 offers daily departures (except Sundays) every hour from 9 am to 9 pm. Taxis and buses can be hailed one block east of the baseball stadium on Niños Heroes. From Teotitlán, buses leave from the town market (across from the La Preciosa Sangre Church) from 6am-7pm.

If you are driving from Oaxaca City, head east on Highway 190 and when you reach Highway 159, head north for four kilometers.

Food: There are a few cozy restaurants in town. Tlamanalli, Avenida Juárez #39, is open in the afternoons from 1-4pm, and closed on Mondays and Thursdays. El Descanso, Juárez #51, is open every day and has basic accommodations. A new restaurant - The Sacred Bean, owned by Ambrocio Gutierrez, is located at Juárez #49 and specializes in good coffee and chocolate.

Banking: There is one bank in town, but it has no money exchange or ATM. That said, bring Mexican currency to town. Larger businesses accept traveler's checks and a few accept credit cards, but mostly you'll need to pay in cash. There are ATM machines in nearby Santa María del Tule and Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Market: The town market is held each morning from 8-10 am across from the church.

Tips: If you are purchasing a rug, take a measuring tape. If you plan ahead, measure a space in your home (wall or floor) where you want a rug.

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